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High stakes abound in Cox Classic

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High stakes abound in Cox Classic

The $800,000 Cox Classic, which will determine the first 25 qualifiers for next season’s PGA Tour, is being played at Champions Run for the 18th consecutive year.

A lot of futures are riding on this week’s Cox Classic, including Omaha’s place on the Tour.

The $800,000 tournament, which will determine the first 25 qualifiers for next season’s PGA Tour, is being played at Champions Run for the 18th consecutive year.

Tour officials want to keep Omaha as a tournament stop. But all of the major contracts, by design, expire this year, including Champions Run as host and Cox Communications as presenting sponsor.

“It’s one of the top events on our tour,’’ Tour President Bill Calfee said last week. “We intend to be in Omaha for many years ahead. (But) we have some work to do.”

Calfee said he’ll meet this week with the sponsoring Omaha Community Service Foundation, which has raised more than $2 million for charity through the event.

“There’s some work to do on the golf course front,’’ he said. “Champions Run has indicated it would like to take some time off so we’ll probably look for another course. We’re confident we’ll be successful, the community will support us and we’ll be back in 2014, back and better than ever.”

As for the pros, they come to town mindful that how they score this week affects if and where they’ll play the rest of this year and in 2014.

The Cox Classic completes the tour’s regular season. The tournament is restricted to the 156 highest-ranked players on the season money list. There are no Monday qualifiers or pros from the Nebraska PGA section.

After Omaha, the tour finishes with a four-tournament playoff series similar to the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup.

Here’s what the money list after the Cox Classic will determine:

» The leading money winner, who receives a full exemption to next season’s PGA Tour.

» Those who are Nos. 2 to 25 on the money list, who also get their PGA Tour cards.

» Those who are Nos. 26 to 75, who will join the PGA Tour members who are Nos. 126 to 200 on their money list for the playoffs. The leading money winner in those events gets a full PGA Tour exemption for next season and the next 24 on the playoff money list also receive their PGA Tour cards.

» Those who are Nos. 76 to 100, who will be members of next season’s Tour.

Those who finish outside the top 100 have to look to the PGA Tour’s revamped qualifying tournament to stay on the Tour next season. The qualifier, or Q School, is now for spots on the Tour instead of the PGA Tour.

“It’s been quite an evolution for our tour to go from five (PGA Tour) cards to 50,’’ said Calfee, referring to the Tour’s start in 1990.

Calfee said it took more than two years to create the tour’s playoff format, which needed approval from the two tours’ player advisory councils. Most feedback has been positive, he said, and sometimes it reflects where a player is on the money list.

“Most of the players wanted it or it wouldn’t have gotten passed by the players’ boards,’’ he said. “They understand seasonlong performance is a better measure than a few weeks during Q school.

“This has elevated the stature of the Tour. If you ask media and other people in golf, there’s very, very strong support that this is a big improvement.”

Omaha received the plum of being the last regular-season event this year. This date won’t be available for at least the next three years because of a new event in the Portland, Ore., area.

It had been thought that there would be a formal presentation of the PGA Tour cards to the top 25 money winners on the 18th green Sunday at Champions Run. That has been a tradition at the season-ending Tour Championship.

Calfee said it’s unlikely, given that some of the 25 might have missed the cut for the weekend and could leave town. The tour is still working on a post-golf celebration that would acknowledge those who made it.

With all the jockeying for position on the money list, the tour president said excitement should be high in Omaha. The $800,000 purse, with $144,000 to the winner, is the largest for a regular-season event. The playoff purses are $1 million per tournament.

The Cox Classic is about a month later than usual, moved to create space between it and the U.S. Senior Open at Omaha Country Club that ended on July 14.

“I think our moving forward in Omaha will feed on the success of the Senior Open,’’ Calfee said. “Companies that got involved in the Senior Open that hadn’t gotten involved in our event might now. They can see a better value because, for one thing, our pricing is much lower.”

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